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Worthy Queen of Greatness
The Snow Maiden
"Where did your powers come from, Elsa?" Anna asked her sister much later that day, tamping her hand down on a pile of snow to make tiny prints, like miniature snow angels. "How did you get them?"
"The grandfather troll asked Papa that same thing, when we visited them to keep you from freezing." Elsa shut her eyes to remember. "'Born with the powers, or cursed?' he said."
"Cursed?" Anna's eyes widened in shock. "How could your magic be a curse? It's so beautiful!"
"What if it got away from me, Anna?" Elsa asked quietly. "What if I had another accident like I did with you, but bigger? What if I were so frightened, or angry, or sad, that I couldn't make it stop when I needed to? I could bring winter into summer, and kill all our farmers' crops so that they'd starve when the food ran out, and freeze over the fjord so no ships could come or go and the traders would be bankrupt. And I'd have no way to stop it."
"But you're not like that." Anna reached out and took her sister's hand. "You're not frightened or angry, are you? Or sad?"
"No." Elsa smiled at her sister. "No, I'm not. I was, for a little while, after the accident, but now I'm not anymore. Not so long as I have you."
"I'll never go away from you." Anna added her other hand to the clasp. "Not ever, ever, ever. Not even when I'm all grown up and so are you. I promise."
"Oh, Anna." Touched, Elsa squeezed the smaller hands gently. "Thank you, but don't make promises you can't keep. What if you meet a prince from another kingdom, and fall in love with him? You'd have to go away with him to be his queen."
"So I won't fall in love with a prince." Anna waved this difficulty away airily. "Or if I do, he'll be a younger prince, and then he can come and live in Arendelle. But that's forever away from now, and I still want to know where your powers came from. Didn't you ever wonder?"
"Well. Sometimes." Elsa lay back in a pile of snow and exhaled slowly, watching her breath crystallize into perfect six-sided snowflakes. "It would be nice to know it didn't come from a curse on somebody else. On Papa or Mama, maybe, or another ancestor of ours."
"It didn't," said a voice from the doorway, startling both girls into squeaks.
"Mama!" Anna sprang up to dash to the Queen and hug her tightly. "Mama, why didn't you ever tell me?"
"Because the grandfather troll said it might be dangerous for you to remember that Elsa had magic, until she was far more sure of her control." Queen Brigitta bent and kissed her younger daughter on the white streak of hair which ornamented one side of Anna's head. "But now she is, so now you know. And I believe I may know where your powers came from, Elsa," she added to her older daughter, who sat up in a rush, dislodging a small flurry of snow around herself. "Clean this up, please?"
"Yes, Mama." Elsa got to her feet and raised her arms above her head, then drew them down slowly. As she did, the ice on the pillars and the piles of snow around her grew smaller and smaller, until by the time her hands were cupped in front of her, the only frost in the room ornamented a whirling sphere floating above her fingers. With a quick puff of breath, she disintegrated this, and looked up with a smile.
"Wow," whispered Anna, her eyes shining. "That's so amazing!"
Hand in hand, the sisters followed their mother from the throne room and down a long hallway lined with portraits, stopping at the fourth from the door.
"This, girls," said Brigitta, raising the sheer veil which hung before the picture to preserve it from dust and sunlight, "is your great-great-grandfather, King Anders, and his Queen, your twice-great-grandmother Inga. What do you see?"
"She looks—" Elsa began, raising her hand towards the woman on the canvas.
"She looks like you, Elsa!" Anna broke in impulsively. "All white and pale, like snow and ice, but so pretty in her blue gown with all the sparkles! You should have one like that, when you're grown up and Queen of Arendelle."
"Maybe I will, and you'll have one to match it." Elsa tugged on her sister's unstreaked braid. "Only yours would have to be red, because you're fast and bouncy like fire!"
"Hey!" Anna twisted away from the pulling fingers, then draped the braid over her shoulder to regard it thoughtfully. "I can't wear red," she said after a moment of consideration. "It wouldn't look right with my hair. But maybe gold? That's a fire color too."
"Maybe." Elsa looked up at the portrait again, searching the painted face of Queen Inga as though seeking some secret that lady had held in her heart. "She looks…not sad or scared, but something like both of those," she said finally. "Was she cursed, Mama? Is that why I have my powers?"
"No, love." Brigitta sat down on one of the sofas which lined the walls of the corridor, patting the cushions beside her until both her daughters came to sit with her. "Queen Inga came from a little village of ice-cutters here in Arendelle, near the valley where the trolls live, and she was not cursed with ice and snow. Instead she was born from them. She was what is called a Snow Maiden."
"Does that mean she was a Snow Queen, when she married the King?" Anna broke in. "Like Elsa will be?"
"Not exactly." Brigitta shook her head. "Here is how it was. One of the ice-cutters and his wife were beginning to grow old, and they loved children very much but had none of their own. So they visited the trolls to ask if anything could be done for them. And the eldest troll, knowing that these were good people who had always been kind to their neighbors, took ice and snow in his hands and shaped them into the form of a baby, and breathed magic over them."
"And then?" asked Elsa breathlessly, her fingers twisted together in her lap. "What happened?"
"And then what the troll held in his hands was not a shape of snow, but a real, live, lovely little girl." Brigitta smiled at Elsa's long breath of awe and Anna's gleeful, hand-muffled squeal. "And he gave the child to the ice-cutter and his wife, but warned them never to let her get too close to a fire, whether that was with cooking or with dancing on feast days or any other time. For she looked and lived like any other girl, did Inga the Snow Maiden, just as long as she never touched so much as a candle flame. If she ever had, she would have melted away in an instant."
"But she didn't," said Anna with certainty. "She grew up and got beautiful, and the Prince fell in love with her and married her!"
"The Prince fell in love with her, yes," Brigitta agreed. "But he wanted her to come to know him as a man and not only as a Prince, so that he could be sure she wanted him, and not just his crown and his palace. So he came to her village disguised as an ordinary young man, and stayed there for a year, working in leather, because his hobby was making beautiful shoes and pouches for his friends, and his tools worked just as well to mend the boots and belts of the ice-cutters. And in the end he won Inga's heart and married her, and brought her home as his Queen. And yes, Anna, the people did call her the Snow Queen, because of how pale she was, but only her husband and her children ever knew the truth of her being a Snow Maiden."
"So I have power with snow, because our great-great-grandmother was made from snow?" Elsa stretched out her hands, looking at their fronts, then their backs. "I suppose that makes sense."
"But are there really people who're cursed with powers, or with something else?" Anna clambered up onto the back of the sofa. "Who does the cursing? Could I get cursed with powers? Maybe I could be an Ice Princess to go along with Elsa's Snow Queen—eek!" She shrieked aloud as Elsa, with a wicked grin, ran a line of ice along the inside seam of her gown. "No fair!"
"Behave," said Brigitta firmly, plucking her younger daughter off her precarious perch. "Both of you. As for being cursed…I don't know. I assume it must happen, if the grandfather troll needed to ask about it, but I couldn't tell you how or where or why. But I believe I know who would." She smiled. "Why don't we go and talk to your father about making another trip to the trolls' valley?"
"Yay!" Anna wiggled off her mother's lap to do a dance of victory across the hall and back. "We're going on a trip!"
"What about the gates?" Elsa asked her mother quietly under the sound of Anna's celebration. "Will Father have them opened again?"
"When we come home from our journey, yes, I think he will." Brigitta took Elsa's hand in hers. "Your father's council has done a fine job of keeping things running while we were otherwise occupied, but I believe it is time for Arendelle to be ruled directly by her King and Queen again." She smiled. "And, of course, to meet her princesses. Who will behave themselves with dignity and restraint at all times while they are in the public eye, Anna."
"What?" Anna spun around, slipped on the tile floor, and fell flat on her bottom. "Ow!"
Elsa had to use both hands to hold in her giggles.
And I'm back!
Yes, sadly, hiatuses of this length are more common with me than I'd like them to be, but I've got a couple chapters ready, or almost so, and I'm going to try to keep moving on this story from now on. My apologies, O readers, and if you want to keep up with what I'm doing, I have a Facebook page and a website where you can find out more about my life, my writing, and other random things. Usually dogs, cats, music, and food, or some combination thereof.
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